Monday, August 15, 2016

Indian Spring Country Club

For 33 years, Indian Spring Country Club was very much the center of Four Corners' life.  The club, which was located on the combined land of Blair High School, the YMCA, Indian Spring Terrace Park, and the Beltway operated between 1924 and 1957.  While the club moved away almost 60 years ago (and closed permanently in 2007), its' influence remains.  It probably shaped the development of the modern Four Corners we know today more so than any other factor.


Indian Spring Terrace Park is comprised entirely of land that was once the golf course (this sign seen from the aptly named Fairway Avenue).  The trees in the background on the left side of this sign date to when the course was still open.  Photo by the author.

The club was founded as "Indian Spring Club" by movie theater magnate Fayette Thomas "Tom" Moore in 1924.  In that year, there were no built subdivisions around Four Corners at all.  The only homes in the area were on small farms surrounding the rural crossroads.  The location was far out in the countryside for the day, with the population of Montgomery County being just 34,000.  

The first rounds of golf at the course were played in the spring of 1924, as reported in the below Washington Post article on April 28, 1924 entitled "First club event at Indian Springs [sic] gets large entry":   

"The first of a series of club events which the golf committee of the Indian Spring club has arranged for the entertainment of the members of that organization occurred yesterday. Sixty-four players, divided into foursomes were arranged in two teams under the captaincy of Tom Moore, president of the club, and Basil M. Manly, and competed in a round of eighteen holes."

The original course, pictured below, was deigned by well-renowned golf course architect Donald Ross.  The 36-hole golf course, spread across 140 spacious acres, quickly became well revered by golfers throughout the region. 

Indian Spring Country Club in 1937 as a 36-hole course.  The Four Corners intersection is at the top of the photo.  The fence line seen at bottom is the back of the lots facing Indian Spring Drive.  Image from Craig Disher's site The Lost Courses of the Capital Area.  

The course at Indian Spring was a favorite of many successful golfers of the era, such as 10-time Washington amateur champion Bobby Brownell, who said it was his second favorite course after Winged Foot Golf Club in New York.  The course saw many championship tournaments during the 1920s and 30s, along with social events at the clubhouse and recreational facilities.  Indian Spring Country Club hosted several dances for community organizations and political parties (both Republicans and Democrats), a practice that had continued at the new location in Glenmont.
    

The YMCA building was formerly the clubhouse of ISCC.  While altered and modernized, the stone clubhouse building remains largely intact.  Photo by the author. 


The Donald Ross-designed 36-hole course was heavily altered in 1939, when real estate developer Abraham Kay bought the course and built hundreds homes on the south side of the club, shrinking the course to 18 cramped holes. This subdivision, Indian Spring Club Estates, comprises most of todays' Indian Spring neighborhood.  Kay purchased the club from the original owner, Tom Moore, after Moore refused to sell the club to the members after some kind of dispute (the decision to sell to a developer instead of the members would eventually require the club to relocate 18 years later).  The original course extent is overlayed on the current street grid below.

  

Kay originally planned to develop the entire course into a subdivision, but decided to preserve an 18 hole course on the site so that members of the Jewish community could have a place to golf (they were barred from other clubs at the time due to prejudice).  Kay's new Indian Spring Club Estates subdivision was approximately one third Jewish according to Saul Mindel, president of Montgomery Lodge B’nai B’rith in the 1940's.  While Jews were permitted to become members of Indian Spring, African Americans and other racial minorities would remain barred from the club until the mid-1960's, after it left Four Corners.

The extent of the course after it's 1940 downsizing is seen in the 1957 aerial image below.

Indian Spring Country Club in 1957, the same year the club relocated to Glenmont.  Image from USDA.
              
By the late 1950s, the club was no longer in the countryside, instead, it was surrounded by quickly growing suburbia.  Colesville Road and Old Bladensburg Road (the name of University Boulevard pre-1958) were seeing growing traffic volume due to all the new auto-oriented development occurring along those two routes.  The Maryland State Roads Commission (precursor to the SHA) expressed its intent to widen Colesville and Old Bladensburg roads, an effort which would encroach on an already cramped golf course.  With the Beltway also on the horizon, the club decided to relocate to a new facility in Glenmont, and Indian Spring Country Club closed its doors in Four Corners on April 1, 1957.

The Silver Spring YMCA took control of the clubhouse, pool, and recreation facilities immediately upon the departure of the golf club, but the fairways were left to become overgrown.

Old Bladensburg Road being widened and converted to University Boulevard in 1958.  The recently closed Indian Spring Country Club is at left.   Image from the D.C. Historical Society via Ken Hawkins. 

With the construction of the Beltway through the former club property in 1962, the site was essentially split in two.  The southern portion of the course that wasn't already under YMCA ownership became Indian Spring Terrace Park in 1970.  The north side of the property, however, was left largely untouched for nearly 40 years.  The only change was the addition of Fire Station 16 near Williamsburg Drive in 1968.  The overgrown parcel became known as the "Kay Tract", since Kay Companies retained ownership of the land until 1996 when they sold to Montgomery County Public Schools.  

The former golf course in 1963.  Image from USGS.

The former golf course in 1993.  Image from Montgomery County.

While the club has been gone for decades, it still has an impact on Four Corners today, the most visible of which are Blair High School and the Silver Spring YMCA.  Without the club, it's unlikely that Four Corners would have either of these amenities.   

Many of the subdivisions built in Four Corners were a direct result of the country club, with some alluding to golf and the club in their names (Indian Spring Club Estates, Fairway, Country Club View, etc.).  Whether associated with the club or not, all subdivisions built in Four Corners between the 1930s and 1950s touted their proximity to Indian Spring Country Club and nearby Argyle Country Club as a selling point.  

Although the country club moved away years ago, the Four Corners community has continued to thrive.        

5 comments:

  1. What I find interesting about Kay's development of Indian Spring Estates is that he, like many of his non-Jewish real estate developer counterparts, also attached racially restrictive covenants to his properties, including Indian Spring Estates. Shortly after subdividing the land for development, Kay filed covenants restricting lot setbacks, uses, minimum building costs, and race. The racial restriction read, "No person of any race other than the caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or any lot, except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race domeciled with an owner or tenant."

    Though Kay bought the country club partly as a way to break the anti-Semitic barrier keeping Jews from joining and playing at other area country clubs, he fully embraced the racist practice of excluding African Americans from his homes, as well as his country club.

    There was choice at the time, whether to restrict race or not. Many Montgomery County developers did restrict race prior to 1948 and the Shelley v. Kraemer Supreme Court decision rendering racially restrictive covenants unenforceable. What I find interesting and worthy of further study are the developers who chose to not exclude African Americans (and Jews) from their developments.

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  2. During the early 1960s, the northwest end of the abandoned Indian Spring Country Club site, known by then as "The Kay Tract" served as the location of at least one traveling three-ring circus for several Summer days. Tents and various carnival midway exhibits filled the westernmost end of the tract. Fire Station 16 had not been moved to its new home at that time. I attended with several grade school friends, chaperoned by a neighborhood mom and I was hugely disappointed that I had no pocket money to gain entrance to the midway freak show.

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    1. Upon further investigation, the circus was the "Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus" which made a one day visit to Four Corners, sponsored by the Silver Spring Jr. Chamber of Commerce on Friday April 26, 1963. I was 12 years old.
      See photo at: http://kaptainkidshow.com/63_0427_FourCornersCircus.jpg

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  3. Thank you for your blog. It's fascinating. I grew up at 215 Granville. My parents were original owners

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